Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scene Sunday #5

Since I haven't been writing much lately (read: at all), I thought I would take this opportunity to post a new Scene Sunday and get those creative juices flowing!

Scene Sunday Concept: The 5W1H Rule--answer the questions, and create a scene based on it!

Who: A girl on the open road.
What: Is driving.
Where: In the middle of nowhere.
Why: Because she's trying to escape her life.
When: Late afternoon/early evening.
How did it go: She finds something she wasn't looking for.


The air was surprisingly warm, despite the heavy gray storm clouds overhead. Her hair whipped around her face from the rush of wind through the open window, spraying it around her face. She reached up with one hand, pressing it back away from her eyes so she could focus on the road. The engine on the heavy, beat-up truck gunned as she pressed harder on the pedal, trying to outrun the storm.

The radio had long-since given away to static, leaving her alone with her thoughts. She kept her eyes fastened to the pavement in front of her, not wanting to think; not wanting to remember; not wanting to let her mind continuously replay those final moments in her head again and again.

So she drove harder. Faster. The long stretch of road gave no chances to take a turn to fast, but she desperately wished to play her odds. To treat her own life with the contempt and recklessness it had been shown. To abandon everything she'd ever been taught about morality, truth, and family.

Hot tears stung her eyes, a solid lump forming in her throat and nearly choking her. Her lips parted with a gasp to breathe in air, steeling herself against the impending tears. She hadn't cried yet, not once since she had left that horrific scene behind her. She wouldn't cry now. She wouldn't allow herself to think them worthy enough of her tears.

As if it wanted to do the job for her, the skies suddenly split open with a resounding crack of thunder, the rain falling down in sheets and pummeling the aged truck. She quickly reached for the window handle, rolling it up desperately to keep herself from getting wetter. Steam rose off of her newly-drenched arm as she reached for the heater, turning it on her at full blast.

Her visibility reduced to just yards in front of her car, she instinctively slowed, lifting her foot from the gas pedal. She scanned the sides of the open highway for a sign of where she was--where she might stop until the rain eased up a bit--but it was deserted. Just a long road and endless fields.

She slowed the truck more, dropping it down a gear. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen headlights, either coming toward her or behind her. She was completely alone on this isolated stretch of highway. It had been a blind turn, one she had made after countless others, and as the magnitude of her solitude crept in on her, one she was starting to regret.

She glanced at the gas gauge, relieved to see there was still half a tank of gas. She gritted her teeth, leaning over the wheel, keeping her eyes fastened to the road in front of her.

She continued on, driving, the rain streaming down around her and pelting the truck almost violently. Thunder cracked and roared in the skies, as if warning her away. For a moment she considered turning around, and then, blessedly, she saw it. A sign.

New Hope, it read. 5 miles.

She smiled wryly at the city's name. And then she continued her car forward, her destination set.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Radio Silence

I haven't posted much, and I always mention on this blog that I only blog when I'm writing.

So, we can pretty much take from this that I'm not really writing right now.

I will say it's not for lack of trying, though. I started one story, got about 30 pages in, and then gave it up. (I believe I mentioned it a couple of posts ago, about a couple of characters I wanted to try out.) I liked the characters, but the story felt really rushed and the characters lacked conflict because they were so compatible. So the story died right there on the operating table. (We will mourn you, dear story.) Of course, I'm keeping the story, because who knows? In ten years I might just pick it up again. ;)

Some amazing news! The Wrong Path is doing astonishingly well. Better than I ever could have dreamed. I am floored at how many people are giving it a shot. And it even got some phenomenal reviews on Amazon--I was so touched! It just blows my mind every day. I don't know how it happened, I just know I'm incredibly grateful.

So. Since I haven't really been writing, what have I been doing lately? In my post-surgery recovery, I've been watching insane amounts of General Hospital. (Jonathan Jackson is back as Lucky. Rebecca Herbst has been saved as Elizabeth. The chemistry between them is explosive.) I stopped being a Lucky/Elizabeth fan when JJ left the show and became a diehard Liason fan, but now with JJ back, I find myself rooting for LL2 once again! Plus, with a new headwriter on the show, I am looking forward to each episode to see where he takes our much-loved characters. (Soap operas have taught me the best lessons in my life--including and especially that absolutely nothing is black and white and people will always see things in their own perspective.)

I haven't really been reading much, either, but that's partially because my eyes give me a bit of trouble when I try to focus on words for too long. And with a computer-based job, that's loads of fun, lemme tell you. LOL! It'll get better when I can put my right contact back in and actually see the world clearly instead of only half-clearly.

Meanwhile I've been trying to decide what my next book to release should be. I can't decide if I want to write a new one or if I want to try one I've already got and just clean it up. Decisions decisions! I have a post somewhere on this blog where I summarized all of the stories manuscripts I have complete or mostly-complete. I'll have to find that and see if I can get buy-in on what my next publishing venture should be...

Sorry for the lack of updates lately! I'll get back into the swing of things soon! :) Until then, hope there's been a lot of amazing reading going on, and lots of enjoying the summer!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Update! Life and The Wrong Path

I want to start off by apologizing for not blogging for so long... My husband went away on a business trip last week, so we literally spent every waking moment together. And then when he was gone I was depressed and so just laid in bed and watched TV. (I didn't even check my e-mail!) Then work exploded, so there was a lot of sleeping involved once I finally did get home.

And my husband came home (thankfully safe and sound!) and the next day I went straight into surgery. (A couple of years ago I had a DCR, which is fancy-talk for a blocked tear duct, and it became blocked again, so I had to go back into surgery to get it fixed again.) So I've spent the last couple of days lying in bed feeling terrible as the medicine wore off. Happy to say, though, today I'm feeling much better! Plus, I have a pretty cool-looking black eye. I'm going to tell everyone at work I fought off an attacker. Ooo! Or that I'm an undercover assassin on the weekends. Or... uhh... any other ideas?

I even have some AMAZING news to share! Thanks to all of you, and to all of you who wrote reviews and blogged about The Wrong Path, I've sold ~60 copies! Considering I had no idea if people would even find the book, to discover it's actually sold ~60 in two weeks just made me want to dance! (But I didn't literally burst into dance, because I'm still feeling pretty sick.)

A huge, huge thanks to all of you for reading the book, spreading the word, posting amazing reviews, and being so supportive. I am so honored people are spending their time reading my book. I am a lucky girl!

The good news about surgery and post-surgery sleep, btw, is the random bits of inspiration that you get struck with! The hard part is figuring out which idea to go with next... <3

Thank you again to all of you! (And leave your suggestions for my black-eye story in the comments!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: Forbidden

Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Find it on Goodreads!

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives--and the way they understand each other so completely--has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

The Story (No Spoilers):
So, let's forget for just a second the whole "incest" portion of this story. Because--really? I don't have a brother, and if you've ever read a V.C. Andrews book, you're probably pretty immune to the concept of it being shocking. (My husband, btw, has a younger sister, and he is very quick to reassure me the idea of it has never crossed his mind and that he finds the idea of it unappealing, but that is not the point.)

So now that we're not thinking about, "ZOMG THEY'RE BROTHER AND SISTER THAT'S NASTY!", let's focus on the plot. Because under the incest storyline of this book is a story about two kids who are fantastic parents at the tender age of 16 and 17 to younger children ages 5, 8, and even 13, forced into the roles by a father who abandoned them and a mother who is hardly ever around. They work exceptionally hard at maintaining the structure of their family unit, making sure the children are fed, clothed, to school on time, and homework completed. They strive to keep the surface appearing in-tact, for fear social services will come and break their family apart.

The Characters

The 16 year-old main female character of the book. She tries hard to fit in at school, trying to keep others from learning just how horrible things truly are at home. Maya is an incredibly likeable character, strong and vulnerable at times, always trying to keep things running smoothly. She is the stable one in the book.

The 17 year-old main male character of the book. I personally found Lochan more interesting than Maya. Lochan has an incredibly bad case of social anxiety disorder, unable to stop gnawing on his lip when confronted with social situations and unable to interact with his classmates or anyone outside of his family without stammering or turning crimson. I did think it was a little overdone at times, but then again, he could just have an incredibly bad case of it. I will say the author captured his feelings of anxiety beautifully, portraying them in a heartbreakingly realistic sense. Throughout the book you get the sense something is building inside of Lochan, possibly something violent, through small incidents here and there, but thankfully we are not subjected to seeing his beautiful character get shredded by watching it come to fruition. He is also strikingly brilliant, something that disgusts his mother who says he inherited it from his father.

The mother
I expected the mother to be the typical alcoholic-abusive mother, but instead she was a fairly happy drunk, when she was around. Oh, she had her moments of throwing tantrums and spitting out her cruel, hateful words, but overall, she was a happy-go-lucky alcoholic woman without a care in the world who wanted to reclaim the freedom she had lost when she gave her youth away to raising children she had never wanted. And in a way, you can't help feeling sorry for her.

The siblings
I loved them. All of them. Even bad-attitude 13 year-old Kit, when he stopped mouthing off and being a jerk. The youngest sister, 5 year-old Willa, was absolutely a doll, and I would be so happy if I had a daughter like her. The author absolutely managed to capture all of the children in realistic ways, so much so that I felt like I knew them personally--like they were each unique individuals I could pass on the street and meet.

The Writing
Magnificent. That is the best summation of the writing I can give you. It was truly magnificent. The author's command of the written word was just... I could cry with jealousy and awe. The way she was able to capture so much, finding the perfect words for every scene, and being able to make you literally feel like you were right there, in the moment, watching it unfold before you, was just astounding. There were parts of the book where my interest waned, but I continued reading simply because I was so in love with her writing.

The Story (Spoilers!)
Earlier I told you to forget they were brother and sister. Now I'm going to tell you why. To me, and this is strictly my own personal opinion, and I have done no research on this novel or the author or anything else, the book read like a wonderful, poignant novel about a family doing whatever it takes to get by.

Now--would if that were the tagline, would you have read this book? Would you have been intrigued by it?

No? Well... What if we had the brother and sister fall in love? With each other? Would more people be interested then?

Get where I'm going with this?

The book was insanely beautiful on its own. It didn't need the incest. I'm not saying that because I'm anti-incest. (No, I'm not getting freaky with any of my relatives and I never have--I just figure it's none of my business what people do.) I'm saying that because the story was just that strong enough on its own. The incest portion of it was more like, "Brother and sister are acting like parents/husband-and-wife for 1/4 the book... Suddenly brother and sister think the other is attractive... Brother and sister 'realize' their closeness and friendship goes beyond familial love so now they're in love and getting freaky." If the whole brother-and-sister relationship had been taken out of the book, and it had just dealt with the issues at hand: kids forced into parenthood before their time, afraid of breaking apart their family, social anxiety up the wazoo, trying to fit in, I think the book would still have been just as poignant. Because Maya and Lochan's relationship didn't make or break the book for me. It wasn't, for me, what the book was supposed to be about.

You want a book about incest? About a brother and sister falling madly, passionately in love even though they know it's wrong and not wanting to stop even though they want to stop? V.C. Andrews. She did it first; she did it best. And she wasn't ashamed of it. It was the whole point of her books. Point A: Brother and Sister. Point Z: Lovers. Not Forbidden.

Do I hope you check this book out? I do. It is well worth the read. Forget about the taboo nature of the material--it's not what's important. It's the story she's telling about survival, and mostly, doing whatever it takes to keep your family together.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Review: Candor

Title: Candor
Author: Pam Bachorz
Find it on Goodreads!

The picture-perfect new town of Candor, Florida, is attracting more and more new families, drawn by its postcard-like small-town feel, with white picket fences, spanking-new but old-fashioned-looking homes, and neighborliness.

But the parents are drawn by something else as well.

They know that in Candor their obstreperous teenagers will somehow become rewired - they'll learn to respect their elders, to do their chores, and enjoy their homework.  They'll give up the tattoos, metal music, and partying that have been driving their parents crazy.  They'll become every parent's dream.

My thoughts (non-spoilery!):
It seems fitting to be writing about a dystopian novel on the 4th of July. I appreciate some good irony, and this one doesn't escape me. The 4th is about celebrating letting freedom ring, and dystopian is about usually about taking that to the next level--freedom rang so much someone had to step in and take it away before the population destroyed itself.

This book, as I thought it would, reminded me of the movie Disturbing Behavior. Candor put a new spin on it, though. The residents of the town of Candor are brainwashed by Messages that filter through a constant stream of always-playing music that filters through speakers everywhere in their town. The Messages are sometimes generic in nature--Always obey your parents--to tailor-made messages for some kids--Sherman Golub is your destiny. (Yep. The Messages can even make you fall in love with someone.) As our main character Oscar is quick to tell us, if you go too long without hearing the Messages once you've started hearing them, your brain will unravel and you won't get de-brainwashed--you'll go insane and kill yourself. Oscar's father is the town founder, the leader, the one who creates the Messages and programs them for people. And for the special cases, he built what Oscar calls the Listening Room: a padded cell with speakers designed to blast your brain with Messages 24/7 until you conform.

When Oscar's girlfriend Nia, the only girl who can think for herself besides him, is sent to the Listening Room and comes out another one of the Candor drones, Oscar decides it's time to escape. But when their plans are discovered, only one of them may be able to get out before it's too late...

When we meet Oscar, he tells us how over the years he learned to build walls in his mind to fight the Messages, and how he's created a business getting kids with enough money out of Candor. He is abrasive and rude, often referring to women in a horribly derogatory fashion that made me almost stop reading on several occasions. It may be typical teenage boy stuff, but I still found it distasteful, and it didn't seem to help the book in any way. The town appears to be programmed to think Oscar is a celebrity, and even though he thinks for himself, it also seems to have gone to his head. I thought his appreciation for Nia--a girl who seems to fight the Messages all on her own--was well-developed, though, and over the course of the story I did come to like him.

Oscar's wild-child girlfriend had her moments for me. I liked her, but I found her pretty bland. I didn't really understand what she saw in Oscar. I'd like to say more about her, but she really didn't have much story to her and she really was there for Oscar to have his transformation.

The author really drilled home what a disgusting, oily, nasty, blubbery, revolting slob Sherman Golub was. He almost seemed cartoonish in the way she described him, and at times the imagery made me want to retch. And yet I really felt sorry for him, and I found myself thinking Candor might not be such a bad place for someone like him--and yet he was the person Oscar was trying to help free. It made me sad. Sherman needed the most help, and he was the one not getting it.

Mandi was Oscar's girlfriend in the beginning. She had been a beauty pagent queen until she had tortured some girl into committing suicide, and then her parents had moved to Candor. And I loved her. The author did a great job at showing Mandi's constant war with herself, struggling between her cruel nature and the perfect drone Candor had shaped her into. I honestly liked Mandi the most out of all of the characters, and I felt the most sorry for her when the former beauty queen was forced into loving Sherman. It made me sick. Especially when Mandi did everything she could to take care of him, even though she was clearly disgusted by him.

Overall (contains spoilers!):
Overall I really enjoyed the story. It was not a quick read, and there were parts I found irritating (like Oscar's brutish behavior and borderline cruelty when it came to choosing his clients--those with the most money got out). I think it would have been better if Oscar were secretly choosing his clients based on who had the best chances of survival, who was the best connected, etc. Even if it had a selfish element then, it wouldn't have been about saving the least worthy of all of them just because they had money. And I didn't like his fixation with... the female form, shall we say? Maybe boys think like that--I just didn't really want to read about it. But that's a personal preference.

What I did enjoy was Oscar's back story. A father who created the perfect town to erase every bad thing in everyone's lives--after the death of his son. A mother who ran away when she realized what her husband was doing. That's definitely an element I wish had been explored. There's a line in the novel where Oscar overhears his parents arguing before his mother leaves and his father says, "Who's more important? The son who died? Or the one who's still alive?" I liked the hidden motivation it spoke of, but it's never touched on again. And I couldn't help feeling Oscar's father knew Oscar was the one acting out in the town, but he pretended he didn't know because he wanted Oscar to be like him some day--above the Messages. But that isn't what happened, and it didn't seem like the father we caught glimpses of.

The Listening Room wasn't built up the way I think it could have been (like Unwinding in Unwind!). But it was frightening. And the book ends on an eerie note that will haunt you even after the book is over.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Wrong Path - Out Now!

It's finally here!

The Wrong Path is now out on Amazon Kindle (check it out)!

It hardly feels like weeks ago that I decided July 2nd would be the day. And yet here it is, and now The Wrong Path is available on Amazon Kindle, and it's pending review in Smashwords. (Ugh!) I've had some amazing reviews from some wonderful people, and every time I read them it just takes my breath away and I get all excited.

I always feel to shy to thank people on their own blogs for their reviews--so I'm thanking you now on mine! LOL! Carole, Maria, MisTris, Lucy, Kris, Ashley, Amanda... Thank you for giving my book a shot and for liking it and taking the time to read and review it! I can't tell you how excited I got each time I saw your reviews.

So what's on the agenda to celebrate today? Well--step one was to post about it on Kindle Boards! LOL! Step two? I thought I would write a bit. Then step three is go out with friends tonight and karaoke like crazy people. (They're all amazing singers--me? Not so much. Which makes for a very interesting time.)

You guys are amazing, and I am so happy I got to share this release with you! <3